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Getting A Motorcycle Licence

Tue, 14/04/2015
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First steps- Provisional Driving Licence 
Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)- What is it? 
Compulsory Basic Training (CBT)- How does it work? 
Licence Categories 
Theory & Hazard Perception Tests 
Practical Test- What’s involved? 
Practical Test- Module 1 
Practical Test- Module 2 
16, 17 & 18 years old 
Progressive Access
Direct Access


Learning to drive any vehicle can be a daunting process for many people and there is a lot to think about, especially if you want to ride a motorcycle.

The process of obtaining a full motorcycle licence is now a lengthy and sometimes costly one and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although the initial stages of getting your licence are the same for both bikes and cars the theory of riding safely, the practical skills required and the dangers involved are very different and this is now recognised by the DVLA.

Unlike the requirements for a full car licence (being 17yrs old, pass a theory test and pass a single practical test) the route to a full bike licence has been split into several progressive stages which are designed to give the novice rider the skills they need while protecting them from a full power motorcycle which they have neither theknowledge nor experience to control.

It does however,provide for the more mature motorist who has either come to biking later on in their motoring career or who perhaps is returning after a lengthy break by allowing them to combine their already established road sense with their new-found practical skills in something called ‘Direct Access’.



Before you can learn to ride a motorcycle or moped in the UK you must first apply for a provisional driving licence. This can be done either online through the DVLA website or by post by completing and returning a D1 application form obtainable from the DVLA website or from a post office.

Provisional licences currently cost £34 when applied for online or £43 if applying by post.

You can apply for a provisional driving licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months old; however you must be 17yrs old if you want to drive a car & 16yrs old if you want to ride a moped or light quad bike and 17 yrs old to ride anything bigger. Your licence will say when you can start driving different vehicles.



Provisional Licence holders:

Once you have obtained a provisional driving licence you may book a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) test. This is required for both motorcycle and moped riders. The CBT certificate is valid for 2 years. If you do not pass a further motorcycle practical test within this time the CBT will expire and will have to be re-taken to retain eligibility to ride on public roads as a learner.  

Once you have completed a CBT you may ride a moped or a light motorcycle of between 50cc & 125cc (depending on your age) on the road with L plates until you pass a full motorcycle test.

Full Car Licence Holders:

If you passed your car driving test on or after 1st February 2001 you need to pass a CBT test to legally ride a moped; your entitlement to ride a moped will then last as long as your driving licence is valid.  If you passed your driving test before 1st February 2001 you will already have the entitlement to ride a moped and don’t need to take a CBT test, unless you want to ride a larger motorcycle.



A CBT will comprise of 5 elements starting with an introduction and eyesight check The student will then cover some theory & practical training followed by riding in a safe, controlled environment (usually a school playground or closed yard where they will be free from the hazards of the roads). The instructor will be assessing knowledge and riding ability continuously and will proceed to the next stage only once they feel the students have learnt the theory and demonstrated the required skill level. Theory and riding will then continue to public roads.

The tuition ratio is restricted to 4 learners per instructor for the on-site training (off the public roads) and then reduces to 2 learners per instructor on the road. A CBT is expected to last for most of a day and can be quite demanding both mentally and physically. The DVLA have a useful guide to learning to ride which is available from their website.

CBT’s must be booked through an Approved Training Body (ATB). ATB’s set their own prices for CBT’s as these will vary depending on many factors, such as where in the country they are based and if you are hiring a bike from them or using your own vehicle. Many ATB’s will also have helmets and protective clothing for you to hire.

Typically you can expect to pay between £100-£130 for a CBT course including bike hire.



Anyone who wants to ride a 125cc motorcycle or larger on the road without L-plates must also take a driving theory and hazard perception test and this must be done before you can book any practical module test.  

There are 2 parts to the test:

1- Multiple Choice: where you will face a series of questions with a choice of answers for each question. This section lasts for 57 minutes and a pass mark of 43 out 50 is required.

2- Hazard Perception: where you will be shown video clips and you are tasked with pressing a button every time you see what you perceive to be a hazard to the motorist you are following in the clips. This section is scored slightly differently but a pass mark of 44 out of 75 is required. You are scored higher for spotting the hazard earlier before it occurs and your score will decrease as the hazard unfolds. If you fail to spot the hazard in time you will score zero. The diagram below details how the scoring system works.

You will sit both tests on the same day, usually back to back, and you must pass both tests to progress to the practical assessment. On successful completion of the theory tests you will be presented with a certificate, the number on which is required to book a practical test. Again the certificate is valid for 2 years and you will need to re-sit the test if you don’t take a driving practical test within that time.

All of the questions in the theory test are taken from the ‘Highway Code’ and some serious studying will be required before you take the test. You can buy a copy of the ‘Highway Code’ and ‘Know your Traffic Signs’ either on line or in book stores and they are well worth getting!

You can book your theory test here online, it currently cost £25.


PRACTICAL TEST- what’s involved?

Once you have obtained a CBT and passed the theory tests you can proceed to the practical modules of the driving test.

There are 2 main aims to this test- to show that you can ride safely in different road and traffic conditions and to show that you understand the Highway Code and can demonstrate that through your riding. The practical test now comprises of 2 modules. You must pass the 1st to be able to take the second. If you fail the first you must wait 3 working days before re-sitting. If you fail module 2 you must wait 10 working days before re-sitting.

While taking your practical test you must wear the following protective clothing: A helmet that meets British safety standards (unless you are Sikh and wear a turban), motorcycle boots or sturdy footwear that provides support and ankle protection, textile or leather motorcycle or heavy denim jacket with several layers underneath, textile or leather motorcycle or heavily denim trousers & motorcycle gloves. If you don’t meet these standards your test could be cancelled and you would lose your test fee.



Module 1- The test is similar to the sort of exercises you will do in the off road section of your CBT and will be conducted off the road in a safe and controlled environment. They usually follow a set course that you will ride around as directed by your instructor.

The test is the same for both motorcycles and mopeds with the exception of the speed at which you are expect to cover the course. The test itself should last about 20 minutes. You will need to have scored 5 or fewer minor riding marks and zero major marks to pass.  Module 1 tests cost £15.50 regardless of time or day of the week. (This is in addition to any vehicle hire, equipment and tuition fees)


Module 2- Again this is similar to the on-road section of your CBT but will be more intensive. You will take an eye sight check and this time will be asked questions about vehicle safety.

Your examiner will follow you on the road and assess your riding ability. This test should last around 40 minutes. You will need to have scored 10 or fewer minor riding marks and zero major marks to pass.

Module 2 tests cost £75 on weekdays and £88.50 on weekday evenings, weekends and bank holidays. (This is in addition to any vehicle hire, equipment and tuition fees)

If you are following the Progressive Access route you are required to take a further Module 2 test between each licence stage, once you have gained 2yrs experience at a given level. For example, once you have held an A1 licence for 2yrs you only need to take the module 2 test to convert your licence to A2. Similarly if you are converting from A2 to a fully unrestricted licence, you only need to take the module 2 test after 2yrs experience of riding on an A2 licence.



Motorcycle and moped licences are now split into a number of category’s which provide more clarity about what you can and can’t ride as well as ensuring that learners get better and more relevant training as they progress up the scale.

On the back of your provisional Licence is a breakdown of which category to apply for, for each type of bike and at what age you will be eligible to apply.  If you are unsure if you are entitled to ride a particular model of bike speak to your local dealer and they will advise you on exactly which bikes suit your needs and licence eligibility, particularly if you are 16 yrs old or only wanting to ride mopeds or scooters.


Licence Category

Vehicle you can ride

Requirement for licence

Minimum age


Mopeds with speed range of 25-45km/h

CBT, Theory test, practical test on all powered 2-wheeled moped



Small 3-wheelers (up to 50cc and below 4kw)

CBT, theory test, practical test



Light Quads (weighing under 350kg, top speed 45km/h)

CBT, theory test, practical tests



Same as AM plus 2 or 3-wheeled mopeds with top speed of 25km/h)

Granted with AM



Light Motorcycle up to 11kw (and a power to weight ratio not more than 0.1kw per kg) and 125cc

CBT, theory test, practical tests



Motor tricycles with a power output not more than 15kw

CBT, theory test, Practical tests



Standard motorcycle up to 35kw (and a power to weight ratio not more the 0.2kw per kg), bike mustn't be derived from a vehicle with more than twice its power

Direct Access Route- Theory and practical tests. Progressive Access route- 2 years experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test



Unrestricted motorcycles in size/power with or without a sidecar and motor tricycles with power output over 15kw

Direct Access Route- CBT, theory and practical tests (must be at least 24. Progressive Access Route- Held and A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years- practical test (21 and over)

24 (Direct Access) 21 (Progressive Access)


16 YEARs OLD- What can I ride?

16 year olds are limited to mopeds of 50cc once they have passed a CBT. Once you turn 17 your CBT will allow you to ride up to 125cc.

There are lots of 50cc options to choose from though. Here are a few of the most popular. Honda Vision 50, Aprillia SR 50,  Piaggio Fly 50 & Aprillia RS4 50


17 & 18 YEARS OLD- What can I ride?

17 & 18 year olds are restricted to riding motorcycles with a power output not more than 15kw & 125cc (14.6bhp).

You must wait until you are 19yrs old and take a test to upgrade your licence to and ride a more powerful bike.

Some popular examples of the types of 125cc bike you could ride with an A1 licence are the Honda CBR125, Aprillia RS4 125 & Kawasaki KLX 125.


19yrs old & on PROGRESSIVE ACCESS- What can I ride?

If you are 19 yrs old you can then ride a motorcycle with a power output not more than 35kw (and a power-to-weight ratio not more than 0.2kw per kg) (46.6bhp)(A2 Licence).These are medium size motorcycles, some of which have lower power outputs due to their engine configurations, others are ‘restricted’ by way of a devise which retards the engine to a level that allows an A2 licence holder to ride it. These devises can be removed later, once the rider reaches the stage that they can ride an unrestricted motorcycle.

Once you have held an A2 licence for 2 years you can then take a full ‘A’ licence test and obtain a full unrestricted motorcycle licence. This is known as ‘Progressive Access’. It allows younger riders to obtain a full licence before they are 24 yrs old by demonstrating their abilities in the same way but with the added benefit of having at least 2 years riding experience on less powerful machines to draw from. Through this experience it is hoped that they will have developed the practical road skills required and gained sufficient experience and maturity to control a larger machine.  

Kawasaki ER-6, Honda CB500 & Yamaha MT-07 are all good examples of A2 bikes.


24yrs old and on DIRECT ACCESS- What can I ride?

24 yrs old or over can opt to enroll on a ‘Direct Access’ course. These usually take place over 2, 3 or 4 days depending on the riders ability. They will have already obtained a provisional licence, CBT certificate and motorcycle theory test prior to booking the course. Instructors will try to progress training by utilising different size machines rather than a 125cc.

The benefit of taking the direct access route is that once you have passed you will hold a full, unrestricted motorcycle licence allowing you ride any motorcycle of any size straight away.  

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